Asian Shares Rise After Upbeat US Data

Asian stocks closed mostly higher on Friday, although trading volumes remained thin ahead of the Christmas weekend. Underlying sentiment remained supported by higher commodity prices, encouraging economic reports from the U.S. and passage of the landmark tax reform bill.

Investors shrugged off the news that voters in Catalonia favored separatists wanting to break away from Spain.

China’s Shanghai Composite index dropped 3 points or 0.09 percent to 3,297.06, dragged down by financial and consumer staple stocks. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was up 210 points or 0.72 percent at 29,578 in late trade.

Japanese shares closed slightly higher in quiet pre-holiday trade after the U.S. House of Representatives gave final approval to the biggest U.S. tax overhaul in 30 years. The Nikkei average inched up 36.66 points or 0.16 percent to 22,902.76 while the broader Topix index closed 0.35 percent higher at 1,829.08.

Heavyweight Fast Retailing rose 0.8 percent on bargain hunting after falling 1.4 percent the previous day. Kobe Steel declined 2.4 percent after demoting three executives, saying they were aware of data falsification at the company.

Pharmaceutical firm Eisai plummeted 14.9 percent after a drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease being developed by the company in collaboration with Biogen Inc. failed to meet the main goal of a mid-stage trial.

Australian shares hit their highest level in nearly a decade, with firm overnight cues from Wall Street and Europe as well as rising oil prices supporting underlying sentiment.

The S&P/ASX 200 index hit its highest level since January 2008 earlier in the day before paring gains to end up 9.30 points or 0.15 percent at 6,069.70. The broader All Ordinaries index closed 0.18 percent higher at 6,167.30.

Banks Commonwealth, NAB and Westpac rose between 0.3 percent and 0.7 percent in a rising interest rate environment.

Santos advanced 0.8 percent and Oil Search added 1.7 percent after Brent oil prices closed at their highest level since the…

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